Erich Heckel (German, 1883–1970), Zwei Verwundete (Two Wounded Men), 1915, woodcut on wove paper. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council.


Robert Bonfils (French, 1886–1972), Les Héros (Heros), from the portfolio Images Symboliques de la Grande Guerre (Symbolic Images of the Great War), 1916, hand-colored woodcut on wove paper. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Graphic Arts Council.


Graphic Arts from the Great War, 1914-1918

AUG 30 – DEC 14, 2014

This year marks the centenary of the commencement of the Great War, the conflict that engulfed Europe and altered the course of twentieth-century life, politics, and history. The Great War also had a profound impact on all forms of artistic expression. At first anticipated and even welcomed by young visual artists as a cataclysm that would renew European society, the war, together with the bitter realities of warfare, soon enveloped the continent. Artists including Otto Dix, Kerr Eby, George Grosz, and Erich Heckel fought in the conflict and recorded their experiences concurrently or years later, seeking to warn future generations of the horrors of war. Others, such as Käthe Kollwitz, focused their artistic talents on those left behind: innocent children, bereft widows, and grieving parents. Artists who were past conscription age were enlisted to create powerful graphics urging their fellow civilians to support the war efforts. While the German art of the war period is perhaps best known and best represented in this exhibition of woodcuts, etchings, posters, and drawings, important contributions from American, Belgian, English, French, and Swiss artists add to the diversity of visual expression and experience.

This Is War! Graphic Arts from the Great War is largely drawn from the collection of the Portland Art Museum. The exhibition offers a gripping look at World War I through the themes and voices that dominated the graphic arts of the time. Trench warfare, soldiers on leave, life on the home front, the influence of posters in supporting the war effort, and the role of periodicals such as Kriegszeit (Wartime) in disseminating the graphic arts as well as the political messages of the day are among the subjects explored.

Organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D., Curator of Graphic Arts. The exhibition is supported in part by the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Endowment for Graphic Arts.

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